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    Book 1 - Chapter 8

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    Chapter 8
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    Mr. Tulliver Shows His Weaker Side

    "Suppose sister Glegg should call her money in; it 'ud be very awkward
    for you to have to raise five hundred pounds now," said Mrs. Tulliver
    to her husband that evening, as she took a plaintive review of the
    day.

    Mrs. Tulliver had lived thirteen years with her husband, yet she
    retained in all the freshness of her early married life a facility of
    saying things which drove him in the opposite direction to the one she
    desired. Some minds are wonderful for keeping their bloom in this way,
    as a patriarchal goldfish apparently retains to the last its youthful
    illusion that it can swim in a straight line beyond the encircling
    glass. Mrs. Tulliver was an amiable fish of this kind, and after
    running her head against the same resisting medium for thirteen years
    would go at it again to-day with undulled alacrity.

    This observation of hers tended directly to convince Mr. Tulliver that
    it would not be at all awkward for him to raise five hundred pounds;
    and when Mrs. Tulliver became rather pressing to know _how_ he would
    raise it without mortgaging the mill and the house which he had said
    he never _would_ mortgage, since nowadays people were none so ready to
    lend money without security, Mr. Tulliver, getting warm, declared that
    Mrs. Glegg might do as she liked about calling in her money, he should
    pay it in whether or not. He was not going to be beholden to his
    wife's sisters. When a man had married into a family where there was a
    whole litter of women, he might have plenty to put up with if he
    chose. But Mr. Tulliver did _not_ choose.

    Mrs. Tulliver cried a little in a trickling, quiet way as she put on
    her nightcap; but presently sank into a comfortable sleep, lulled by
    the thought that she would talk everything over with her sister Pullet
    to-morrow, when she was to take the children to Garum Firs to tea. Not
    that she looked forward to any distinct issue from that talk; but it
    seemed impossible that past events should be so obstinate as to remain
    unmodified when they were complained against.

    Her husband lay awake rather longer, for he too was thinking of a
    visit he would pay on the morrow; and his ideas on the subject were
    not of so vague and soothing a kind as those of his amiable partner.

    Mr. Tulliver, when under the influence of a strong feeling, had a
    promptitude in action that may seem inconsistent with that painful
    sense of the complicated, puzzling nature of human affairs under which
    his more dispassionate deliberations were conducted; but it is really
    not improbable that there was a direct relation between these
    apparently contradictory phenomena, since I have observed that for
    getting a strong impression that a skein is tangled there is nothing
    like snatching hastily at a single thread. It was owing to this
    promptitude that Mr. Tulliver was on horseback soon after dinner the
    next day (he was not dyspeptic) on his way to Basset to see his sister
    Moss and her husband. For having made up his mind irrevocably that he
    would pay Mrs. Glegg her loan of five hundred pounds, it naturally
    occurred to him that he had a promissory note for three hundred pounds
    lent to his brother-in-law Moss; and if the said brother-in-law could
    manage to pay in the money within a given time, it would go far to
    lessen the fallacious air of inconvenience which Mr. Tulliver's
    spirited step might have worn in the eyes of weak people who require
    to know precisely _how_ a thing is to be done before they are strongly
    confident that it will be easy.

    For Mr. Tulliver was in a position neither new nor striking, but, like
    other every-day things, sure to have a cumulative effect that will be
    felt in the long run: he was held to be a much more substantial man
    than he really was. And as we are all apt to believe what the world
    believes about us, it was his habit to think of failure and ruin with
    the same sort of remote pity with which a spare, long-necked man hears
    that his plethoric short-necked neighbor is stricken with apoplexy. He
    had been always used to hear pleasant jokes about his advantages as a
    man who worked his own mill, and owned a pretty bit of land; and these
    jokes naturally kept up his sense that he was a man of considerable
    substance. They gave a pleasant flavor to his glass on a market-day,
    and if it had not been for the recurrence of half-yearly payments, Mr.
    Tulliver would really have forgotten that there was a mortgage of two
    thousand pounds on his very desirable freehold. That was not
    altogether his own fault, since one of the thousand pounds was his
    sister's fortune, which he had to pay on her marriage; and a man who
    has neighbors that _will_ go to law with him is not likely to pay off
    his mortgages, especially if he enjoys the good opinion of
    acquaintances who want to borrow a hundred pounds on security too
    lofty to be represented by parchment. Our friend Mr. Tulliver had a
    good-natured fibre in him, and did not like to give harsh refusals
    even to his sister, who had not only come in to the world in that
    superfluous way characteristic of sisters, creating a necessity for
    mortgages, but had quite thrown herself away in marriage, and had
    crowned her mistakes by having an eighth baby. On this point Mr.
    Tulliver was conscious of being a little weak; but he apologized to
    himself by saying that poor Gritty had been a good-looking wench
    before she married Moss; he would sometimes say this even with a
    slight tremulousness in his voice. But this morning he was in a mood
    more becoming a man of business, and in the course of his ride along
    the Basset lanes, with their deep ruts,--lying so far away from a
    market-town that the labor of drawing produce and manure was enough to
    take away the best part of the profits on such poor land as that
    parish was made of,--he got up a due amount of irritation against Moss
    as a man without capital, who, if murrain and blight were abroad, was
    sure to have his share of them, and who, the more you tried to help
    him out of the mud, would sink the further in. It would do him good
    rather than harm, now, if he were obliged to raise this three hundred
    pounds; it would make him look about him better, and not act so
    foolishly about his wool this year as he did the last; in fact, Mr.
    Tulliver had been too easy with his brother-in-law, and because he had
    let the interest run on for two years, Moss was likely enough to think
    that he should never be troubled about the principal. But Mr. Tulliver
    was determined not to encourage such shuffling people any longer; and
    a ride along the Basset lanes was not likely to enervate a man's
    resolution by softening his temper. The deep-trodden hoof-marks, made
    in the muddiest days of winter, gave him a shake now and then which
    suggested a rash but stimulating snarl at the father of lawyers, who,
    whether by means of his hoof or otherwise, had doubtless something to
    do with this state of the roads; and the abundance of foul land and
    neglected fences that met his eye, though they made no part of his
    brother Moss's farm, strongly contributed to his dissatisfaction with
    that unlucky agriculturist. If this wasn't Moss's fallow, it might
    have been; Basset was all alike; it was a beggarly parish, in Mr.
    Tulliver's opinion, and his opinion was certainly not groundless.
    Basset had a poor soil, poor roads, a poor non-resident landlord, a
    poor non-resident vicar, and rather less than half a curate, also
    poor. If any one strongly impressed with the power of the human mind
    to triumph over circumstances will contend that the parishioners of
    Basset might nevertheless have been a very superior class of people, I
    have nothing to urge against that abstract proposition; I only know
    that, in point of fact, the Basset mind was in strict keeping with its
    circumstances. The muddy lanes, green or clayey, that seemed to the
    unaccustomed eye to lead nowhere but into each other, did really lead,
    with patience, to a distant high-road; but there were many feet in
    Basset which they led more frequently to a centre of dissipation,
    spoken of formerly as the "Markis o' Granby," but among intimates as
    "Dickison's." A large low room with a sanded floor; a cold scent of
    tobacco, modified by undetected beer-dregs; Mr. Dickison leaning
    against the door-post with a melancholy pimpled face, looking as
    irrelevant to the daylight as a last night's guttered candle,--all
    this may not seem a very seductive form of temptation; but the
    majority of men in Basset found it fatally alluring when encountered
    on their road toward four o'clock on a wintry afternoon; and if any
    wife in Basset wished to indicate that her husband was not a
    pleasure-seeking man, she could hardly do it more emphatically than by
    saying that he didn't spend a shilling at Dickison's from one
    Whitsuntide to another. Mrs. Moss had said so of _her_ husband more
    than once, when her brother was in a mood to find fault with him, as
    he certainly was to-day. And nothing could be less pacifying to Mr.
    Tulliver than the behavior of the farmyard gate, which he no sooner
    attempted to push open with his riding-stick than it acted as gates
    without the upper hinge are known to do, to the peril of shins,
    whether equine or human. He was about to get down and lead his horse
    through the damp dirt of the hollow farmyard, shadowed drearily by the
    large half-timbered buildings, up to the long line of tumble-down
    dwelling-houses standing on a raised causeway; but the timely
    appearance of a cowboy saved him that frustration of a plan he had
    determined on,--namely, not to get down from his horse during this
    visit. If a man means to be hard, let him keep in his saddle and speak
    from that height, above the level of pleading eyes, and with the
    command of a distant horizon. Mrs. Moss heard the sound of the horse's
    feet, and, when her brother rode up, was already outside the kitchen
    door, with a half-weary smile on her face, and a black-eyed baby in
    her arms. Mrs. Moss's face bore a faded resemblance to her brother's;
    baby's little fat hand, pressed against her cheek, seemed to show more
    strikingly that the cheek was faded.

    "Brother, I'm glad to see you," she said, in an affectionate tone. "I
    didn't look for you to-day. How do you do?"

    "Oh, pretty well, Mrs. Moss, pretty well," answered the brother, with
    cool deliberation, as if it were rather too forward of her to ask that
    question. She knew at once that her brother was not in a good humor;
    he never called her Mrs. Moss except when he was angry, and when they
    were in company. But she thought it was in the order of nature that
    people who were poorly off should be snubbed. Mrs. Moss did not take
    her stand on the equality of the human race; she was a patient,
    prolific, loving-hearted woman.

    "Your husband isn't in the house, I suppose?" added Mr. Tulliver after
    a grave pause, during which four children had run out, like chickens
    whose mother has been suddenly in eclipse behind the hen-coop.

    "No," said Mrs. Moss, "but he's only in the potato-field yonders.
    Georgy, run to the Far Close in a minute, and tell father your uncle's
    come. You'll get down, brother, won't you, and take something?"

    "No, no; I can't get down. I must be going home again directly," said
    Mr. Tulliver, looking at the distance.

    "And how's Mrs. Tulliver and the children?" said Mrs. Moss, humbly,
    not daring to press her invitation.

    "Oh, pretty well. Tom's going to a new school at Midsummer,--a deal of
    expense to me. It's bad work for me, lying out o' my money."

    "I wish you'd be so good as let the children come and see their
    cousins some day. My little uns want to see their cousin Maggie so as
    never was. And me her godmother, and so fond of her; there's nobody
    'ud make a bigger fuss with her, according to what they've got. And I
    know she likes to come, for she's a loving child, and how quick and
    clever she is, to be sure!"

    If Mrs. Moss had been one of the most astute women in the world,
    instead of being one of the simplest, she could have thought of
    nothing more likely to propitiate her brother than this praise of
    Maggie. He seldom found any one volunteering praise of "the little
    wench"; it was usually left entirely to himself to insist on her
    merits. But Maggie always appeared in the most amiable light at her
    aunt Moss's; it was her Alsatia, where she was out of the reach of
    law,--if she upset anything, dirtied her shoes, or tore her frock,
    these things were matters of course at her aunt Moss's. In spite of
    himself, Mr. Tulliver's eyes got milder, and he did not look away from
    his sister as he said,--

    "Ay; she's fonder o' you than o' the other aunts, I think. She takes
    after our family: not a bit of her mother's in her."

    "Moss says she's just like what I used to be," said Mrs. Moss, "though
    I was never so quick and fond o' the books. But I think my Lizzy's
    like her; _she's_ sharp. Come here, Lizzy, my dear, and let your uncle
    see you; he hardly knows you, you grow so fast."

    Lizzy, a black-eyed child of seven, looked very shy when her mother
    drew her forward, for the small Mosses were much in awe of their uncle
    from Dorlcote Mill. She was inferior enough to Maggie in fire and
    strength of expression to make the resemblance between the two
    entirely flattering to Mr. Tulliver's fatherly love.

    "Ay, they're a bit alike," he said, looking kindly at the little
    figure in the soiled pinafore. "They both take after our mother.
    You've got enough o' gells, Gritty," he added, in a tone half
    compassionate, half reproachful.

    "Four of 'em, bless 'em!" said Mrs. Moss, with a sigh, stroking
    Lizzy's hair on each side of her forehead; "as many as there's boys.
    They've got a brother apiece."

    "Ah, but they must turn out and fend for themselves," said Mr.
    Tulliver, feeling that his severity was relaxing and trying to brace
    it by throwing out a wholesome hint "They mustn't look to hanging on
    their brothers."

    "No; but I hope their brothers 'ull love the poor things, and remember
    they came o' one father and mother; the lads 'ull never be the poorer
    for that," said Mrs. Moss, flashing out with hurried timidity, like a
    half-smothered fire.

    Mr. Tulliver gave his horse a little stroke on the flank, then checked
    it, and said angrily, "Stand still with you!" much to the astonishment
    of that innocent animal.

    "And the more there is of 'em, the more they must love one another,"
    Mrs. Moss went on, looking at her children with a didactic purpose.
    But she turned toward her brother again to say, "Not but what I hope
    your boy 'ull allays be good to his sister, though there's but two of
    'em, like you and me, brother."

    The arrow went straight to Mr. Tulliver's heart. He had not a rapid
    imagination, but the thought of Maggie was very near to him, and he
    was not long in seeing his relation to his own sister side by side
    with Tom's relation to Maggie. Would the little wench ever be poorly
    off, and Tom rather hard upon her?

    "Ay, ay, Gritty," said the miller, with a new softness in his tone;
    "but I've allays done what I could for you," he added, as if
    vindicating himself from a reproach.

    "I'm not denying that, brother, and I'm noways ungrateful," said poor
    Mrs. Moss, too fagged by toil and children to have strength left for
    any pride. "But here's the father. What a while you've been, Moss!"

    "While, do you call it?" said Mr. Moss, feeling out of breath and
    injured. "I've been running all the way. Won't you 'light, Mr.
    Tulliver?"

    "Well, I'll just get down and have a bit o' talk with you in the
    garden," said Mr. Tulliver, thinking that he should be more likely to
    show a due spirit of resolve if his sister were not present.

    He got down, and passed with Mr. Moss into the garden, toward an old
    yew-tree arbor, while his sister stood tapping her baby on the back
    and looking wistfully after them.

    Their entrance into the yew-tree arbor surprised several fowls that
    were recreating themselves by scratching deep holes in the dusty
    ground, and at once took flight with much pother and cackling. Mr.
    Tulliver sat down on the bench, and tapping the ground curiously here
    and there with his stick, as if he suspected some hollowness, opened
    the conversation by observing, with something like a snarl in his
    tone,--

    "Why, you've got wheat again in that Corner Close, I see; and never a
    bit o' dressing on it. You'll do no good with it this year."

    Mr. Moss, who, when he married Miss Tulliver, had been regarded as the
    buck of Basset, now wore a beard nearly a week old, and had the
    depressed, unexpectant air of a machine-horse. He answered in a
    patient-grumbling tone, "Why, poor farmers like me must do as they
    can; they must leave it to them as have got money to play with, to put
    half as much into the ground as they mean to get out of it."

    "I don't know who should have money to play with, if it isn't them as
    can borrow money without paying interest," said Mr. Tulliver, who
    wished to get into a slight quarrel; it was the most natural and easy
    introduction to calling in money.

    "I know I'm behind with the interest," said Mr. Moss, "but I was so
    unlucky wi' the wool last year; and what with the Missis being laid up
    so, things have gone awk'arder nor usual."

    "Ay," snarled Mr. Tulliver, "there's folks as things 'ull allays go
    awk'ard with; empty sacks 'ull never stand upright."

    "Well, I don't know what fault you've got to find wi' me, Mr.
    Tulliver," said Mr. Moss, deprecatingly; "I know there isn't a
    day-laborer works harder."

    "What's the use o' that," said Mr. Tulliver, sharply, "when a man
    marries, and's got no capital to work his farm but his wife's bit o'
    fortin? I was against it from the first; but you'd neither of you
    listen to me. And I can't lie out o' my money any longer, for I've got
    to pay five hundred o' Mrs. Glegg's, and there'll be Tom an expense to
    me. I should find myself short, even saying I'd got back all as is my
    own. You must look about and see how you can pay me the three hundred
    pound."

    "Well, if that's what you mean," said Mr. Moss, looking blankly before
    him, "we'd better be sold up, and ha' done with it; I must part wi'
    every head o' stock I've got, to pay you and the landlord too."

    Poor relations are undeniably irritating,--their existence is so
    entirely uncalled for on our part, and they are almost always very
    faulty people. Mr. Tulliver had succeeded in getting quite as much
    irritated with Mr. Moss as he had desired, and he was able to say
    angrily, rising from his seat,--

    "Well, you must do as you can. _I_ can't find money for everybody else
    as well as myself. I must look to my own business and my own family. I
    can't lie out o' my money any longer. You must raise it as quick as
    you can."

    Mr. Tulliver walked abruptly out of the arbor as he uttered the last
    sentence, and, without looking round at Mr. Moss, went on to the
    kitchen door, where the eldest boy was holding his horse, and his
    sister was waiting in a state of wondering alarm, which was not
    without its alleviations, for baby was making pleasant gurgling
    sounds, and performing a great deal of finger practice on the faded
    face. Mrs. Moss had eight children, but could never overcome her
    regret that the twins had not lived. Mr. Moss thought their removal
    was not without its consolations. "Won't you come in, brother?" she
    said, looking anxiously at her husband, who was walking slowly up,
    while Mr. Tulliver had his foot already in the stirrup.

    "No, no; good-by," said he, turning his horse's head, and riding away.

    No man could feel more resolute till he got outside the yard gate, and
    a little way along the deep-rutted lane; but before he reached the
    next turning, which would take him out of sight of the dilapidated
    farm-buildings, he appeared to be smitten by some sudden thought. He
    checked his horse, and made it stand still in the same spot for two or
    three minutes, during which he turned his head from side to side in a
    melancholy way, as if he were looking at some painful object on more
    sides than one. Evidently, after his fit of promptitude, Mr. Tulliver
    was relapsing into the sense that this is a puzzling world. He turned
    his horse, and rode slowly back, giving vent to the climax of feeling
    which had determined this movement by saying aloud, as he struck his
    horse, "Poor little wench! she'll have nobody but Tom, belike, when
    I'm gone."

    Mr. Tulliver's return into the yard was descried by several young
    Mosses, who immediately ran in with the exciting news to their mother,
    so that Mrs. Moss was again on the door-step when her brother rode up.
    She had been crying, but was rocking baby to sleep in her arms now,
    and made no ostentatious show of sorrow as her brother looked at her,
    but merely said:

    "The father's gone to the field, again, if you want him, brother."

    "No, Gritty, no," said Mr. Tulliver, in a gentle tone. "Don't you
    fret,--that's all,--I'll make a shift without the money a bit, only
    you must be as clever and contriving as you can."

    Mrs. Moss's tears came again at this unexpected kindness, and she
    could say nothing.

    "Come, come!--the little wench shall come and see you. I'll bring her
    and Tom some day before he goes to school. You mustn't fret. I'll
    allays be a good brother to you."

    "Thank you for that word, brother," said Mrs. Moss, drying her tears;
    then turning to Lizzy, she said, "Run now, and fetch the colored egg
    for cousin Maggie." Lizzy ran in, and quickly reappeared with a small
    paper parcel.

    "It's boiled hard, brother, and colored with thrums, very pretty; it
    was done o' purpose for Maggie. Will you please to carry it in your
    pocket?"

    "Ay, ay," said Mr. Tulliver, putting it carefully in his side pocket.
    "Good-by."

    And so the respectable miller returned along the Basset lanes rather
    more puzzled than before as to ways and means, but still with the
    sense of a danger escaped. It had come across his mind that if he were
    hard upon his sister, it might somehow tend to make Tom hard upon
    Maggie at some distant day, when her father was no longer there to
    take her part; for simple people, like our friend Mr. Tulliver, are
    apt to clothe unimpeachable feelings in erroneous ideas, and this was
    his confused way of explaining to himself that his love and anxiety
    for "the little wench" had given him a new sensibility toward his
    sister.
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